August 27, 2006
Written by C.N.
The term Viet Kieu in general refers to overseas Vietnamese and more specifically, to Vietnamese who were basically forced to flee Viet Nam at the end of the war and resettle elsewhere around the world (and to the children born outside of Viet Nam of these refugees). In recent years, more and more Viet Kieu have returned to Viet Nam for various purposes and in the process, have stirred up mixed feelings from both sides:
Not unlike the “ugly American” stereotype that hangs over the head of every Yankee visitor to Paris, stories about wicked Viet Kieu have been woven into the fabric of local urban legends since the country opened its doors to the outside world nearly two decades ago.
Such tales usually star a pleasantly plump middle-aged Vietnamese American fresh off the plane, overdressed and flaunting his purported wealth for all hungry eyes to see. He’s come back, we are told, to wed a young virgin and whisk her back to a life of manicures and spa treatments in southern California.
He can’t speak a word of his mother tongue, but money still talks in the former Saigon, and instead of visiting his relatives, Mr. VK treats himself to a suite at the Las Vegas-style Rex, special “massages,” lavish dinners and bottles of the finest liquor before stepping gingerly over the beggars who stare up at him from the sidewalk and ask why he has been chosen instead of them.
The rest of the article contains excerpts of interviews conducting with about a dozen Viet Kieu on various issues concerning their experiences of living and working in Viet Nam. There are many very interesting insights that the Viet Kieu share, such as how their Vietnamese coworkers may appear to be “lazy” workers, how they’re treated with either disdain or exaggerated deference, and how language difficulties inhibit their full assimilation back into Vietnamese culture.
I found the article very fascinating and definitely recommend all Asian Americans — not just Vietnamese Americans — to check it out and to get a detailed, ethnographic look at how ethnic identity and solidarity can be segmented by geography, language, and culture. If anything, the article brings home what I’ve been saying all along — being Asian (or Vietnamese) is not the same as being Asian (or Vietnamese) American.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "The Viet Kieu in Viet Nam" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/08/the-viet-kieu-in-viet-nam/> ().
Short URL: http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/?p=285